Secret Ingredients of Winning Teams (SIWT)
The shorter duration of sports teams seasons allow for more efficient research and we also find they correlate well with companies, non-profits, and families.
Secret Ingredients of Winning Teams (SIWT) is leading to the creation of a management process for coaches and businesses to implement.
SIWT is for coaches and owners who believe the best teams are made when both the individual's and the team's needs are met. This dual goal takes leadership and management to a higher level, it's not for the lazy coach or boss.
Our first edition focused on Vulnerability. This edition we turn our focus to Following.
Secret Ingredient: Following
If the leader is an intermediary to a vision, then a follower in a team context is someone who agrees with that vision, and subjects themselves to the needs of others in order to reach the agreed upon target. This sounds easy, yet a series of subtle forces are at work undermining group success. Individuals are efficient at calculating their own cost benefit analysis of their time, level of engagement, and compensation needs as they seek to optimize their return on effort.
The act of following while still thinking is a critical component that turns a group of people into a team. Today’s group efforts demand a fully engaged collective body where every person is thinking while they are following. Gone are the days of being able to blindly follow, now at a moment’s notice any member of the team may be called upon to lead. If they don’t have the vision in their mind, the outcomes will suffer.
Great Following Trait #1: Stay close and Observe
Google may have replaced mentors as the best source of knowledge in general, but on a team the subtle needs and tricks to great performance are still passed on human to human. The closer you can stay to your immediate leader, the more they will pass along in either word or deed. First year cadets at West Point are taught to observe and adapt as they start the tightly manicured 4-year matriculation. There will be distractions everywhere at work, from coworkers, to trade shows, to all-hands meetings. Navigate all these with discretion and observe how your boss behaves and mirror it.
Great Following Trait #2: Anticipate
Some of the best teams in the world come in pairs, and seldom is that pair splitting each task 50/50. They often deploy a divide and conquer strategy with each one owning a series of duties and relying on the other to deliver on their stack. As the team builds beyond a pair, a collaborate-to-innovate strategy can start to evolve. It is at this point that the ability to anticipate the needs of others plays a key role in how great followers enable successful teams. At the root of anticipation is empathy. Empathy requires setting aside your thoughts and seeing the world through the eyes of another. New members of work teams who seek to serve the needs of the group first will not stay at the bottom of the totem pole for long.
Great Following Trait #3: Be Comfortable with Conflict
Universities may talk a tough game when it comes to deadlines, but ultimately the student is paying for the knowledge. In recent decades the school administrators have a consistent record of caving to student and parent demands. The workplace is a different story, the customer is a fickle and petulant king, and this can turn even the nicest boss into a frustrated time-constrained leader with very challenging demands.
“Stop what you’re doing and get this done today! It has to get done now!”
What happened to: “How are you, is everything OK in your world? When you get a minute could you step in my office to discuss our latest cool project that you will love?”
Anyone who has worked for even six months knows tension and conflict arrive via phone, email, and text at a moment’s notice. Having a series of communication tools to work with others during times of duress is a game changer. Being able to work with conflict when you are in a low power situation starts with being able to frame what you are hearing, and then nailing what you can offer to the solution. When people disagree on the solution it is key for the good follower to grab the similarities that exist amid the differences, and then look for a good moment to share your findings. Master this trait as a follower, and your leaders will take note and your responsibilities will increase.
A View into Our Future
Tomorrow’s leaders will be challenged to get a population of individuals to buy into the need to follow as we have defined it. Those that can sell the benefits of supplanting the self for the group and create outcomes that feed the entire team will find that word of mouth among the members will keep a steady stream of applicants at their door. Very few enterprises scale without more people, and people having a good time while winning is contagious. We all want to be on that team. The question being asked is are you willing to follow long enough to get there?
The New Employee
We would like to highlight a specific moment when the individual is new to a team or company. One's ability to assimilate quickly appears to have a strong correlation with later success.
Here is a quick guide for you or a friend to use when they are new:
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